by Stephen Mifsud
   24 Jan 2019      ()
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Neotinea tridentata subsp. conica   (Spotted Milky Orchid)

Neotinea tridentata subsp. conica  (ORCHIDACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands at or after year 2000.

Contents Links   (Detailed Profile)

Nomenclature Morphology
Plant Description and Characters Plant Information and Uses
Images External Links
Support and sales Submit information
Website FORUM Copyright notes
Orchidaceae spp. Index Plant Family Index
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Profile Date Mar-2004 (last update: 12-Jan-2019)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (Mar-2004) Neotinea tridentata subsp. conica retrieved from on 2019-Jan-24


Species name :

Neotinea tridentata subsp. conica  (Willd.) R.M.Bateman, Pridgeon & M.W.Chase

Name Derivation :

Richard Mark Bateman, UK, 1958- ;
Mark Wayne Chase, UK, 1951- ;
Alec M. Pridgeon, UK, 1955

Synonyms :

Basionym or principal synonyms: Orchis conica Willd.
Full list of synonyms: [ PlantList ]   [ IPNI ]   [ Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Orchidaceae  Juss.
(Orchid Family)

Common name(s) :

Spotted Milky Orchid

Maltese name(s) :

Orkida tat-Tikek

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Originating from the Maltese islands before man

Name Derivation:

Neotinea = testicle - referring to the pair of tubers which resembles testicles (Greek);
tridentata subsp. conica = Cone shaped - referring to the shape of the flowering spike. (Latin).

Remarks :


Morphology and structure



Growth Form




Erect but without a true aerial stem :

Erect flower stalk(s) and leaves grow directly from the true underground stem such as rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs.

Single, unbranched scape :

Plant forms a single, leafless, robust, unbranched flowering stalk (=scape) which is often found growing from underground tubers, rhizomes, bulbs or corms.

Hirsute :

Covered with rough, coarse hairs.


Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019)







Basal Rosette :

A cluster of leaves in a circular arrangement at the base of the plant. Upper leaves are more erect and wrap around the flowering stalk as a sheath.

Sessile from an underground stem :

Growing directly from an underground stem (bulb, rhizome, tuber, etc.) without a stalk.

Parallel venation :

Veins running from the base parallel to the leaf longitudinal axis.


Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019)


Leaf Shape

Leaf Margin



Linear Ovate :

Elongated oval shape but more linear (less broad) at centre.

Entire :

Smooth margin without indentations, lobes or any projections.


Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019)




Basic Flower Type

No. of Petals

No. of Sepals


Purple/Pink, White and Green

Lip petal is purple and white, sepals are green. Mouth and spur are white.

Orchidaceous :

Orchid-like flower, generally consisting of 3 sepals (arranged as a T) and 3 petals (arranged as a Y) with the lower petal (the lip or labellum) being highly modified and conspicuous.


2 small and inconspicuous and 1 complex and colourful (=labellum).


Identical, green and oval-lanceolate in shape.


  Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019)







Spike :

Unbranched, elongated, indeterminate inflorescence with sessile flowers.

The flower, as in all orchids is quite complex. It is made of white and green tepals of which one, the lip, is larger and highly modified. It has 3 lobes and a pink/purple border, fading to a white center which possess several randomly-located, purple spots. The complex stamens+stigmata column is dark red / brown. At the back there is a long and not much coloured spur.

Inferior :

Ovary situated below the flower parts (the calyx, corolla, and androecium). In other words, these are attached above the ovary.

Pollinia x 2 :

Ovary situated below the flower parts (the calyx, corolla, and androecium). In other words, these are attached above the ovary.


Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019)



Average Flower Size

Pollen Colour

Other Notes



Have a sweet fragrance of moderate intensity.

17mm x 10mm x 13mm

(Length x Breadth x Depth). The Labellum is 10mm x 8mm (L X B). Sizes vary by few mm in flowers of different specimens.





No. Per Fruit





> 2,000

Despite the large amounts, propagation by seeds is not much viable for Orchids .

Powder form

(very small to have a distinct shape ).

Extremely small

(powder form).

Ash Gray


Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019)



Fruit Type

Colour of Fruit

Subterranean Parts

Other Notes


Indehiscent Poricidal Capsule :

A non-splitting fruit capsule which usually stores a large number of tiny seeds which escape through small pores or slits in the walls of the fruit.


Twin Tubers :

Plant have a pair of ellipsoid, food-storing tubers that resembling testes.

Germination and Growth

The germination and growth of the plant is successful only with the presence of specific microrhizzial funghi in the soil.


Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019) Online Flora of the Maltese Islands  2002-2019)

Plant description and characters

Life Cycle:


Growth Form:

GEOPHYTE (Bulbous/Rhizomatous plants)


Garigue and rocky places.



Localities in Malta:

Frequent, particularly common at Dingli Cliffs, garigue near Gnien il-Haddiem in Dingli, Ghajn Tuffieha, Pembroke, Bingemma, etc.

Plant Height:

10 - 20cm.

Flowering Period:


Protection in Malta:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List 1989:

Not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands


Unlikely to be poisonous.

The beauty of this plant is often not noticed since it grows low (about 10cm) and so it could be partially covered by higher surrounding vegetation. This orchid forms basal rosette of leaves which are lanceolate in shape and about 60-80mm long and 15-25mm wide. The glabrous leaves are green to light green in colour, have a smooth outline and a parallel venation. Some leaves are found up along the flowering stem, and these become distinct (not in a rosette arrangement) and have a sheath at the base around the stem.

The flowers are arranged in a dense spike on a common and single, fleshy flowering stalk. The cluster of flowers grows out close together around the fleshy stem and forms an overall shape of a cone, and hence the plant's name - conical orchid. The number of flowers varies from plant to plant but at least about 20. Each flower have 6 tepals and arranged as follows: A lower layer of 3 'sepals' and an upper layer of 3 'petals'. The two layers are very close to each other, nearly at the same locus and are often collectively called as tepals.

The sepals are at the back side of the flower and form a semi-spherical pouch in which the reproductive organs lay. These are white in colour with vertical green stripes. The 3 sepals are arranged as 2 upper, identical, small petals which are white and green in colour and a lower large, modified, 3-lobed, highly coloured petal which is referred to as the lip or labellum (pl. = labia). The labellum have a purple/pink border (on closer look it results to be dense number of pigmented spots) which fades away to a whitish center. On the white center there are further some large, prominent, purple spots at random order.

The reproductive organs are very small and united into a single column with 3 lower stigma (2 fertile and a sterile one called rostellum) and above there are the 2 large stamens (pollinia). The whole structure is reddish brown in colour and deep inside the complex structure of flower, yet still visible from outside. The flower also have a long, closed tube-like structure (called the spur) where nectar is secreted and makes the flower have a mild fragrance. The spur is located at the base of the labellum just below the stigma.

The flowers develop into the fruit, which are green oval capsules that produce numerous tiny seeds. These escape when the ripe fruit splits open. The plant develops asexually from division of tubers, or sexually from the seeds, the former being much more successful.

Information, uses and other details

General protection of wild Orchids

It is a well known fact that the Wild Orchids are in danger of disappearing from the wild. It is hence very important not to cut these flowers despite their curious beauty. Every plant makes just one single flowering stem, and cutting will simply mean destroying the whole flowering cycle as it will not form another flower stem during that year. Large efforts and dedicated time were involved to to include here large, excellent quality and high resolution photos of this plant (using special and expensive photographic accessories) for the purpose so that people at home can admire the beauty of this plant from these photos [SM]

In this profile's photo gallery you find 2 very large photos for printing purposes. You can print it up to a poster size and admire it without the need of cuting the flowers! Alternatively, just take the challenge and fun of it - take your own good photos of this plant without cutting. [SM]

Personal Observations

Like many orchids, this plant is feasible for hybridization by cross-fertilizing a species with pollen from another different species. If the two species are different in their physical characteristics (phenotype) the offspring would result in a number of variants with different physical characteristics obtained from the parent plants, due to the random process of genetic recombination. For this reason one would find species in the wild which exhibit slightly different features especially in the colour, shape, and spots of the labellum. Sometimes the plants becomes quite different from the 'norm' phenotype and this may mislead or confuse botanists. [SM]

Here is an excellent example of hybridization between O. ursulata and O. conica showing both parents and offspring in one photo.

First to flower amongst the Orchids of Malta
Orchis conica is one of the first flowering orchids in Malta. It is normally in flower by the end of January, depending on seasonal weather conditions. Other common early flowering Orchids are Ophrys mesaritica (which flowes in the beginning of January) and Orchis collina which flowers at the same time with O. conicaa.

Short Notes
The leaves are often found edge-pitted or half eaten. The responsible herbivore is not a mammal but snails. Sometimes you could note the resting feeder few cm away from the plant. [SM]

Since the nectar is in the 8mm long spur, the pollinator insect must have a tongue extending to about this length.

It is normal that this wild plant does not produce any seeds at all and just reproduces by formation of underground tubers. [SM]

Not much information about this plant has been found, neither in books nor on the Internet. If you can supply further information to be included in this profile, please, do not hesitate to email me. Full reference credits will be given.

Photo Gallery   (35 Images)

Spectacular close up photo of flowers in situ.
Photo of several flowers in situ.
Photo of the flowering spike in situ.
Close up photo of the attractive flower.
Flowers in this photo have intense colours and rather broad lobes.
Photo of a flowering spike with typical white and pink flowers that are decorated by many purple spots.
Photo of flowering spike that possesses highly coloured flowers with large blobs.
Photo of an albino form of Orchis conica.
Photo of a flowering spike that bears pale flowers with small dots.
Close up photo of a large flower. Some botanists sustain the the flower size is too large for the dscribed size of Orchis conica.
Image of 6 photos of different flowers of the Conical Orchis to show better the variation that the plant exhibits in its flowers.
This photo shows a flower which has a rather whitish colour with purple dots. (Feb 2006, Wied Anglu).
Another photo of the wonderful and decorated flower spike. (Feb 2006, Wied Anglu).
Close up photo of few flowers in the dense flowering spike. Note the detail of the reproductive organs in the upper flower.
Close up photo of the mouth of the flower, showing detail of the reproductive organs in particular the stamenoid column. The pair of pollina are enclosed in brown pouch-like coverings called theca.
Impressive close-up photo of the flowers in the natural reddish sunset light. Click here .
Photo of flower head. The plant had to be removed and translocated due it was surrounded by relatively high vegetation in situ, and hence not adequate for a photo.
Scanned image of flower head against a dark background.
Magnified scanned image of a single flower (front view) showing detail of the labellum and inner reproductive organs.
Magnified scanned image of a single flower (front view).
Scanned image of a flower (side view) showing the pouch shaped white and green-striped sepals in the rear part of flower structure. It also shows the long, tube-like structure called the spur in which nectar is secreted. The opening of the spur's cavity is found at the base of the labellum, beneath the stigma.
Front view scanned image of flower with annotated generic diagram to compare and identify the complex anatomical parts of the flower.
Photo of flowers with the labia removed to show the internal reproductive organs. As indicated in the annotated generic diagram, the stamens and stigma are united into a single columnar unit, with the stigma below, and 2 stamens above. Of the 3 stigmas, one is sterile and modified into a small beak like structure called rostellum, while the other 2 are at the side. One can note that the second flower from the right has some waxy white pollen on its brown fertile stigma.
Scanned image of 3 labia, 2 taken from same species (right and central).
Magnified scanned image of labia showing details of its pigmentation.
Scanned image of upper part of plant showing one leaf, the fleshy flowering stem, and the cluster of flowers which assume an overall conical shape.
Photo of a plant which has flowers with relatively deep purple colours.
Photo of another plant which consists basically of a basal rosette of leaves and a conical flowering-spike.
Photo of another plant in situ at Ghajn Tuffieha.
Photo of plant in a garigue (plant's common habitat in Malta). This orchid grows up to 15cm in length and forms roughly a conical inflorescence with numerous white+pink flowers. (May 2005, Dingli).
Photo of the basal rosette of leaves in situ. Leaves are green to light green in colour and often eaten by snails.
Photo of upper leaves at the flowering stem. Unlike the basal rosettes, stem leaves are distinct and have a sheath at the base around the stem.
Scanned image of leaf measuring about 60mm x 25mm. It has a smooth outline a basal white sheath and parallel venation.
Photo of a honey bee which have just pollinated the flower and have a pair of pollinia attached as marked with the arrow. It seemed that the bee tried to remove them, but the sticky base of the pollinia (the viscidium) adhered firmly to the head of the pollinator.
Two photos showing the pollinium adhered to the head of the pollinator as marked with an arrow.

Links & Further info

Google Web

Google Images

Yahoo Web

Yahoo Images




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



The Plant List


Vienna Virt. Hb.





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